Lukashenko acknowledges shortcomings regarding freedom of press

Belarus may still have shortcomings in the development of freedom of the media, Aleksandr Lukashenko said in an interview published by the German newspaper Die Welt...

 

Belarus may still have shortcomings in the development of freedom of the media, Aleksandr Lukashenko said in an interview published by the German newspaper Die Welt on Thursday, BelaPAN reported.

"Media can act like firearms," the paper quoted the Belarusian leader as saying. "Journalists can kill both democracy and a totalitarian system and cause damage to society."

He noted that journalists in Germany, for instance, bear personal responsibility for their reports. "In our country, on the contrary, irresponsibility reigns," he said, adding that Belarus' information space is open and foreign channels, funded with Western money, broadcast "at our frequencies." He noted that these and Russian channels "sweep with fire our country from the west to the east and from the east to the west." "Our opposition does not disappear from these media," he added, noting that there is nowhere in the world where access to the media is equal.

"I gave the opposition an opportunity to appear on our television," Mr. Lukashenko said. "But by their bad appearances, they lost support among the population and gained 1.5 percent of the vote in the election."

Mr. Lukashenko was speaking about 30-minute pre-recorded campaign statements of opposition candidates Aleksandr Milinkevich and Aleksandr Kozulin, which were broadcast by Channel One (Belarusian Television) in the run-up to Belarus' March 2006 presidential election.

The channel cut out a nine-minute segment from Dr. Kozulin's statement, which the candidate questioned the rapid rise of the Belarusian leader's two sons, Viktor and Dmitry, up the career ladder. In particular, he said that Viktor had been appointed as the president's national security aide and given the rank of ambassador at large despite allegations that he had shot a man in a nightclub altercation a few years before.

According to the central election commission, Mr. Milinkevich gained 6.1 percent of the vote and Dr. Kozulin 2.2 percent.
Mr. Lukashenko also said that opposition leaders do not enjoy support among the population because they stay more time in the West than in Belarus. "They receive money in the West and then return with allowances from Western foundations. Many of them are corrupt," he alleged.